Ska°l Beer Hall will open in the former People's Pub location at 5429 Ballard Ave NW this summer. 

Photo by Ryan Murray
Ska°l Beer Hall will open in the former People's Pub location at 5429 Ballard Ave NW this summer. Photo by Ryan Murray

Ballard exists in a tenuous space between the Scandinavian-heritage fishing village of the past and the quickly developing, hip neighborhood of the present.

Adam McQueen hopes his Skal Beer Hall will sit on the fence of those worlds and be a space where old and new can appreciate a pint, some Scandinavian delicacies and a roaring fireplace when it opens this summer.

“I want it to be approachable to the public,” McQueen said. “We’ll have that Ballard tradition: rustic wood, stone, things that feel heavy, but we’ll also have lots of light and windows.”

McQueen, who claims his Swedish and Norwegian heritage inspired the idea, said Skal (in the former People’s Pub location on Ballard Avenue) will have a more open layout with larger windows than its geographical predecessor. Skal, which rhymes with “bowl,” means cheers in Norwegian/Danish/Swedish. 

“People walking by should be able to look straight through to the back bar,” he said. “We’ll have an open kitchen with stools to sit at the counter.”

McQueen wants Ballard’s young families to come visit, so he is planning on a child-friendly at the front of the bar, at least until a yet-to-be-named curfew. The back bar will be 21 and over, so child-phobic imbimbers will be safe. A large booth and several more intimate booths will fill out the back section, while larger windows to take in the view of the ship canal and Queen Anne will provide what McQueen calls “one of the best views in Ballard.”

McQueen’s partner, Lexi from Old Ballard Liquor Co. (who prefers to go by a single name) will be bringing over her company’s aquavit and Scandinavian foods to Skal.

“We’ll be treating the kitchen as somewhat of a viking butcher shop. It’ll be meat heavy with a focus on game meats, like goose, venison and elk. We’ll have specialty sausages and skewers as well,” McQueen said. “Lexi will be bringing over her traditional stuff, but we’ll also have something to appeal to everybody. Some people can be scared of lutefisk.”

Old Ballard Liquor Co. serves a flight of pickled herring and McQueen said he hopes to emulate some of that locally-sourced traditional food.

While Skal will have a “limited” full bar, McQueen said the cocktail focus will be heavily on the aquavit - a traditional Scandinavian spirit flavored with caraway or dill and other spices and/or herbs.

“Aquavit can be a really versatile liquor,” he said. “You can use it for whiskey, gin, vodka or other hard alcohol. It can be aged in oak and bourbon barrels to change it drastically.”

Being a beer hall, the draft and bottle selection will focus heavily on Scandinavian brewers, some of which can be exceedingly hard to find in the United States, particularly on the East Coast. Some of these breweries, such as Nøgne Ø, Omnipollo and Mikkeller, are already deservedly famous in the American beer community. 

“My biggest concern is making sure the beers are fresh by the time we get them in kegs,” McQueen said. “We’ll also have bottles to take away. Some of these beers you won’t be able to get around here.”

A lineup of Ballard, Seattle and Skagit Valley/Bellingham breweries will fill out the taplist.

McQueen will rip the old dogleg bar out and replace with a horseshoe bar with a central tap bank. To maintain a level of authenticity to the beers, many will be chilled in a walk-in cooler. However some imperial, bourbon-barrel-aged or English style beers will be stored at a slightly warmer cellar temperature.

The feel of a viking mead hall, which McQueen hopes to cement with this project, has been on his mind since he first got into the craft beer industry six years ago at Harpoon Brewing in Boston. He moved to Seattle four years ago, and knew Ballard was the spot for him.

“It’s been a long process getting here and getting all the permits in order, but I’m feeling really confident now,” McQueen said. 

Skal Beer Hall is scheduled to open in early July at 5429 Ballard Ave NW. Visit for more information.